Every detail ready for State of the State
BISMARCK -- Mark Halvorson's table test may be the strangest of all the preparations for today's opening of the North Dakota Legislature. Halvorson, curator of collections for the State Historical Society, doesn't want the 43-pound US...
BISMARCK -- Mark Halvorson's table test may be the strangest of all the preparations for today's opening of the North Dakota Legislature.
Halvorson, curator of collections for the State Historical Society, doesn't want the 43-pound USS North Dakota silver punch bowl ruined on his watch.
So before the bowl is placed for the State of the State reception this afternoon, Halvorson will have tested the table that is to hold it.
"I hop up on top and jump up and down," he said.
Yes, people stare at this spectacle in the Capitol's soaring Memorial Hall, he says, "But the Highway Patrol is used to me."
The USS North Dakota silver service was given to the state before the battleship was decommissioned in 1923. It is brought out of the archives only for affairs of state and only upon formal written request by the governor.
Three pieces of the stamped and cast silver -- the punch bowl and a pair of 11-pound candelabra -- are used at the State of the State reception.
His unique task stems from an occasion when Halvorson found the silver on a table of questionable sturdiness.
"It was an inadvertent thing," he said.
Afraid that someone bumping into a corner could collapse or jostle a too-flimsy table and send the brittle cast silver crashing to the stone floor, he instituted the jumping test in 1991. If the table can hold him -- he weighs about 195 pounds -- it should hold the silver.
His table test is not the only bit of care taken. The pieces are put into separate carrying cases, placed on a cart and driven in a van the short distance from the Heritage Center to the Capitol by a team of North Dakota Army and Air National Guard members, Halvorson said. It never leaves his sight.
"It's under curator supervision at all times," he said.
The reception follows Gov. John Hoeven's State of the State address, given to a joint session of the Legislature in the House chamber starting at about 1:30 p.m. It features as much pomp as you'd expect of an occasion that rates use of historic silver.
Sgt. Rob Keller of the North Dakota Army National Guard said the Guard, the governor's staff, the Highway Patrol and the Capitol's facility management workers have been working behind the scenes for weeks to ensure it goes smoothly.
"We don't want anything to fall between the cracks," Keller said Monday, holding a three-ring binder with the plans.
Two dozen National Guard members will be in dress uniforms to escort Hoeven and other dignitaries. The 188th Army National Guard band from Fargo will be in the balcony playing the national anthem and other patriotic songs.
Out in the hall, the red carpet has been rolled out, awaiting the receiving line. A sign-language interpreter has been hired and a photographer lined up.
It's the one time you need a ticket to get into the House, because seating is limited. All state elected officials, the congressional delegation and spouses are invited, along with people from throughout the state who will be mentioned in Hoeven's address.
Kathy Ibach of the governor's office said the public also calls for tickets.
"We tell them we'll put them on a list. We'll try to accommodate anybody who wants to get in. Some people are willing to stand," she said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830